Quick-thinking bystanders helped rescue six horses from a burning float after a mechanical failure led to it going up in flames in Porangahau on Sunday night.

Porangahau volunteer fire chief John Galbraith attended the incident about 6.10pm which closed Porangahau Rd for more than an hour.

Mr Galbraith said the float was connected to a vehicle and that the driver was alerted to the fire after another motorist saw smoke.

"I presume the fire started in the brake system, that's where the main part of the fire was."

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The occupants of the vehicle had to act quickly to safely remove six horses on board.

"We got there and they'd disconnected the truck from the unit. "They'd got six horses out and got saddles and gear out before it got too hot."

Mr Galbraith said bystanders were able to help get the horses out and put them in a nearby paddock. "It went up pretty quickly, it was completely destroyed. It was totally in flames by the time we arrived."

The destroyed float, which had been hired in Hastings, was left on the side of the road, while the horses were ridden home on Monday.